Posts Tagged ‘Natural Farming’

Finca Luna Nueva

My travels, adventures, and pursuit and personal development continue, this time at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica: a sustainable rainforest Eco-Lodge with a certified Organic Biodynamic farm. The farm, as part of the slow food movement, attempts to grow as much of their food for staff and guests as possible. They grow an array of fruits and vegetables, raise some animals, make their own chocolate, pepper, coffee, tea, and also grow turmeric and ginger, among many other things. The farm and eco-lodge are host to a number of other opportunities and activities that can all be found on  their website by clicking the link above.

I’ll be taking part in a 3-month farming internship. I plan to learn all about growing food, raising animals, medicinal plants, the world of Biodynamics, organics, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. I will also continue my own self-directed study of Permaculture design, Natural Farming, and Biointensive Farming as a complement to this internship program. To add to that, I hope to help manage all areas pertaining to tea on the farm, from planting, propagating, and harvesting, to pruning, processing, and serving.

I’m really excited to return to Costa Rica, which is where my farming adventures all began well over a year ago. Not only do I get to learn even more about sustainable farming practices and lifestyles, but I get to work with Camellia Sinensis and continue acting as  a student of the Leaf (all of which will prove syncronistically practical for my adventures post-Costa Rica, but that’s for another post well into the future). Anyway, I’ll be updating my blog regularly about live on la finca. My internship doesn’t start until next week, but look forward to some exciting new posts.


Planting A New Tea Bed

Planting a new tea garden this week and next. It’s on a slope as you can see from some of the pictures, so I built a simple A-frame level from pvc pipe, string, and a plumb bob to walk across the surface and find the contour line.

nothing beats planting tea on the sunny hill-sides in Hawaii.


Life at Mauna Kea Tea Garden

Well, I’ve resided at Mauna Kea Tea for over a month now and haven’t given a proper post on my experience here.

My Mountainside home

On my second evening at Mauna Kea Tea Farm, I repositioned my tent after an all-night rainfall the previous night. Still not enough rain coverage, I soon after set up another tarp and have stayed dry ever since between these two strawberry guava trees. It’s pretty wet up here at 2000 ft above sea level (not to mentioned it is the rainy season in Hawai’i)

This morning moon is only visible from the farm at certain lunar intervals. I’ve only had a chance to follow the moon, and it’s moving all over the place! Notice the tall-growing grasses (sudan I believe) between tea rows. This is an attempt at cover cropping to out-compete against other weeds, develop soil structure, and add biomass in the form of green mulch when we cut them back.

Typical BreakfastA typical breakfast (only now save the oatmeal). Usually just a medley of fruits; papaya, banana, foraged avocado, raisins, and sometimes some sprouts – all in an attempt to incorporate more raw food meals into my lifestyle. I’ve also got a published article on cover-cropping. There’s a great library accessible to wwoofers at Mauna Kea covering topics on soil, natural farming, microbes, mycelium, mushrooms, cover-cropping, mulching, biology, etc., the list goes on.

Welcome to our humble home at the base of the property! This is what a raw-food kitchen counter looks like! It’s also where we cook (or un-cook), relax, stay out of the rain, and mainly read; many many hours of silent reading goes on in here…Electricity is minimal and solar-supplied, but all we really need it for is light in the evening.

The propane heated shower

The amazing composting outhouse. With the right amount of applied saw-dust and EM (Effective Micro-organisms) our waste breaks down at an alarming rate, and without the smell. It’s so effective the rising waste is hardly detectable and we won’t have to remove it for a long time.

A couple lunch favourites.

A new section of garden J ready to be planted.

 This has already been planted now by the other wwoofers. I’m currently working on different  tea bed on quite a slope. I’m learning about contour planting to help prevent erosion during water run-off and for ease of harvesting. Without any fancy leveling equipment, I’m simply using a handheld level and properties of right angle triangles to create level rows of tea.

Oh Great Ohia!



After a machine operated cut-back, I finish off the job by hand hedging to create a nice level plucking table for next Springs’ flush.

Natural Farming is host to a concert of symbiotic relationships!

 I believe this is some kind of  fungi called cordycep that inhabits the host and messes up its metabolism, killing the host and then fruiting from the inside.

Lovin' Life and Livin' Love at Mauna Kea Tea!





Amatuer Tea Processing: A Day In The Life

Huh, well wordpress has implemented a new gallery interface, that apparently doesn’t show the descriptive text associated with each picture… Here is a link to my facebook profile with the same album and all of the descriptions for each picture.



Mauna Kea Tea: Wwoofing

What makes wwoofing a particularly enjoyable sojourn, is that we are exposed to the farming environment without all of the major obligations of owning a farm! Some people might envision farming as simple, stay-at-home, honest work that puts money in the bank and food on the table. Sounds great right? Until you have all of these papers to sign, certifications to acquire, acres to manage, bills to pay, kids to look after, neighbors to deal with, cars to buy, emails to write, <insert obligation here> – you know, the typical daily chores that amass and consume our lives if we choose to let them. This is not the case for wwoofers. We get to enjoy farming for its fantasy, without the obligations – not to say this job is easy. Darn those freeloading wwoofers without their obligations!! Get a job already!


Here, I can sit down on this mountainside in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, eschewing life’s conventional struggles and chewing food forty times to the mouthful. On some days, I might ponder what to make for my next meal. On other days, sometimes I forage for seasonal foods along the mountain roadside; avocado, loquat, macadamia, Brazilian cherries, guava, and citrus are ripening as we speak. You might think to look up for fruit in fruit-bearing trees, although looking to the ground reveals the hidden truth! Here, I can listen to nature; with wind so strong and trees so old, She howls. And, on the best of nights, I can sit outside by candlelight, drinking tea and cracking macadamia nuts under the influence of the moon. All the while learning about and living sustainably, practicing natural farming, managing healthy soil structures, and living in a simple and humbling environment. Like Do-Nothing Farming, it seems paradoxical that less is more. Doing nothing (or having a small input) can have a high yield, a grand outcome – and that’s not to say it isn’t hard work. It is to say that I can sit down and enjoy a cup of tea while Nature does what we think we need to improve upon, but you can’t improve upon Nature; Nature does it best.


“We have come to a point at which there is no other way than to bring about a “movement” not to bring anything about.”

– Masanobu Fukuoka



Mauna Kea Tea: “Do Nothing Cooking”

In learning more about Natural Farming or “Do-Nothing” farming, I’ve also discovered an easier way to cook – not cooking. In the struggle to farm profitably these days, most farmers ask what can I do to make things easier? Whereas the proponent of Do-Nothing farming asked instead, what can I not do (or remove) to make things easier?


In a struggle to make good food out of basic beans and grains, I thought, why do I need to try to make food taste good? What can I not do to make a good meal? If before I thought I had to cook to make good food, then what would not cooking yield? RAW FOOD, which apparently tastes great, in and of itself. In the way Natural Farmers took the farming practices out of farming, raw-foodists took the cooking out of cooking food. There’s really no need to try to make food taste good because food tastes good AS IT IS, as long as one cultivates the attitude and sensitivity to enjoy them. Think of it as eating ordinary foods with an extraordinary sense of perception.


This idea didn’t actually come to me in this way; I was just trying to draw a parallel between Natural Farming and a Raw Food diet (a Natural diet). The other wwoofers here have committed to a raw food diet and have influenced me; that and the terrible dishes I’ve ruined in trying to cook without recipes.  I’ve actually made some great chayote and potato latkes, though…


Not that I’m strictly adhering to a raw food diet, but I’m definitely incorporating it throughout the day and really enjoying it. It just makes sense to eat food raw, as nature provides it? Just for lunch I had red lettuce, raisins, sprouted lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa, carrots, snow peas, beans, chayote, tomato, avocado, cucumber, and macadamia nuts. The food tastes great without having to do anything. It’s not much of a revelation, but the motive behind the intention might be…



Mauna Kea Tea: Natural Farming

Well, I’m at it again!

After loving 2 months in Kaua’i at Cloudwater Tea and 10 days in Taiwan – the queen of oolong tea – I now reside and WWOOF at Mauna Kea Tea Garden on the Big Island of Hawai’i. It’s much different here, in a very simple and also empowering way.


Mauna Kea Tea is up in the mountains of a small town called Honoka’a. The farm is 2000 feet above sea level and the clouds travel fast up here. I live at the base of the property in my tent. The tea evergreens here are smiling and beautiful; the farmer really knows his Camellia Sinensis and farming practices. While he does all of the tea processing himself, I get to learn about tea in its natural state from cutting to harvest. (I say “natural” as opposed to conventional or even organic. I explain further down). I’m not sure of the cultivars, but there are both the China and India bush varieties. You can always visit Mauna Kea’s website for more information on their final product.


There is a communal cabin for cooking and lounging. We have a propane-powered outdoor shower and cooking elements. The outhouse is a squatter, electricity is solar supplied, and there is no fridge or any major appliances. The lifestyle here is simple and humbling with basic foods and cooking ware supplied. I’ve suggested that the general theme here is, the less you have in life, the more forced you are to live. And here I am, forcing myself to live; otherwise, I don’t have the self-discipline to live under such conditions. I’m learning to cook with simple ingredients, tenting on a rainy mountainside, practicing the way of Natural Farming, and all done in the presence of tea. This (almost semi-primitive) lifestyle is simple, healthy, sustainable. While it might seem limited at first, they farmers here are actually providing us with an environment in which we can experiment and learn through experience. Instead of just giving us all of the answers and “necessities” we get to figure them out on our own and work with what we’ve got – it’s a very empowering environment if you choose to look at it in that way. Plus, they don’t just talk about sustainability here, they apply it with their farming and daily living practices.


I might add, just as a reminder, when I refer to tea, I usually mean tea as a beverage, an art, a culture, a history, a medicine, a metaphor; tea is an act of service, a welcoming… you get the point.


Back to the farm; uniformly scattered throughout the property and tea beds, old and ominous Ohia trees grow. Reaching out like shadowy hands against brick walls in a back-alley, their rough twisting branches offer dark and silvery shades of green leaves. Walking amongst the Ohia at night might cause an ominous internal stir, however, these aged giants are more like sages and guardians of the tea gardens. Bringers of shade and buffers of wind; their beauty is rustic, crude, weathered, and strong.



Upon coming here and reflecting on the direction of my tea influenced travels, it’s boiled down to this: I’ve gone from drinking tea, to farming and processing tea, to where things stand now; strictly farming with tea. Originally, I wanted to go back to roots of tea – that being the farm. Now, as I’ve come to the farm, I am lead towards the roots of farming, that being Natural Farming, which follows a path (or pathless path to be correct) as closely aligned with nature as possible. This is roughly the model of farming at Mauna Kea, which in turn becomes the model for growing tea, their mono-agricultural product. What is Natural Farming? Strictly speaking, hunting and gathering is the essence of Natural Farming, but for agriculture purposes, it means no chemicals or prepared compost, no cultivation (plowing or turning the soil), no weeding by tillage or herbicides, and no dependence on chemicals.


“The ultimate goal of Natural Farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” In one sense, it is a pursuing of the way of nature, but in a broader sense, it is a spontaneous communion between humans and nature that arises naturally of itself – something that cannot be pursued. When we let go of human will and allow nature to guide us, nature in turn  takes care of everything.


That’s the funny thing: it turns out that when you let nature take its natural course, all is well. “Nature is never in a hurry, yet accomplishes everything.” All of the so-called necessary farming practices are only necessary because we’ve created a system in which agricultural products are dependent upon them. When pests come, we use pesticide, and then our plants depend on the increased use of pesticides – a weaker plant (deviated from the norm) now exists and we think we’ve fixed the problem…  If you let insects come, their natural predators will also come, and equilibrium will be established with time. Conventional farming is dependent on unhealthy and useless farming practices because that’s the system that has been created and perpetuated. That being said, there are no standardized methods to Natural Farming; it must be adapted and implemented accordingly based on your geographical location.


I suppose I could paraphrase the entire book, but if you’re really interested, you should read The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. He goes against everything we thought we knew (in agriculture) in an attempt to show us we don’t know anything (in general) through the medium of farming. Natural Farming is sustainable, organic, simple, (enjoyable!), and follows the path of nature.


Pictures to come!…